Top 10 Architectural Sites to Visit in Mumbai

Deborah Rosario

Tucked into corners and mixed in with busy streets, these sites in Mumbai show themselves demurely and spectacularly, reflecting the diverse cultures and religions that have flowed into India over the centuries. Culture Trip brings you ten architectural sites that you must visit next time you’re in India.

Asiatic Library

The Asiatic Library or the Town Hall

The Asiatic Library was built in the 19th century in a pristine neo-classical style, with stones apparently imported from England. It boasts a distinctive and imposing set of thirty steps, which lead to a Greek portico. The building is visually different from the heavier Gothic and Romanesque architecture mostly seen in heritage buildings built during the period. A high-ceilinged space can be found within, where readers can browse through the library’s reference section. Further in is a dramatic wrought-iron spiral staircase and marble statues of personages who contributed to the society. The library was built as a town hall for the walled city the British resided in, and also houses a museum.
The Asiatic Society Mumbai Town Hall, India

Crawford Market

2. Art Deco Residences

Cinema

Standing at Oval Maiden offers the view of two architectural heritage collections: the neo-Gothic precinct towards the east and the Art Deco towards the west, which are nearly as considerable in number as those in Miami. A walk down the west side of Oval Maiden provides a view of these Art Deco residences, whose restrained decor creates a graceful street façade. Similar residential can be found along Marine Drive and in Mohammed Ali Road. Unlike Mumbai Gothic, Mumbai Deco was built by Indian architects who united Art Deco with Indo-Saracenic styles, using elements from palaces, forts and other Indian imagery. Other expressions of this hybrid style are The Parsi Fire Temple, with large dramatic Assyrian lion motifs, and Liberty Cinema, whose pink and ivory colors, plush carpets and iconic frozen fountain motifs made it one of the most glamorous cinemas of the those years.

3. Bombay Arts Society

Art Gallery, Building

From the outside, the Bombay Arts Society building resembles a quirky and artistically disposed pile of boulders. It is entirely covered by a uniform skin of pale beige concrete. The space within is fluid and spacious and contains no straight beams or corners. An innovative and award-winning building, its design emerged from an attempt to create a mixed-use building on a limited 1300 square meter plot. At the lower levels are artists’ offices and an auditorium, as well as a cafeteria and gallery. Above these are four stories of administrative offices in a single unit, with a dramatically extensive sheet of floor to ceiling glass, looking towards the sea.

4. Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves

A vast complex of over a hundred caves, Kanheri dates from the second to the ninth century AD, and was a center for Buddhist worship. The caves are carved from basalt, and part of the experience of visiting them is the long and winding trails of steps that connect the caves. As opposed to Elephant Island, these caves have a grandeur that impresses with austerity rather than decoration. Most of the caves are quiet viharas intended for living and studying, and some are cisterns for water storage. The larger caves, known as chaityas, are for congregational worship and contain ornate sculptural carvings. They house Buddhist stupas, and the weighty pillars that typically line the cave sides form a long central path.
Kanheri Caves, Mumbai, India

Haji Ali Causeway © Rakesh Krishna Kumar/WikiCommonsHaji Ali Causeway © Rakesh Krishna Kumar/WikiCommons

5. Haji Ali Dargah

Mosque

Across Malabar Hill on an island out at sea lies Haji Ali Dargah, the tomb of Muslim saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. What makes this mosque and tomb additionally special is its location. It is about 500 yards beyond Mumbai’s shoreline on the sea, near Lala Lajpatri Marg. It is approached by a causeway, that appears only when the tide is low. When the tide rises, the mosque gets completely surrounded by water. The mosque standing near Hindu Banganga Tank tells the story of India’s multicultural past and present. The site itself dates to the 16th century, though the present structure belongs to the early 19th century. It is built in traditional Mughal style of marble domes and minarets, presenting a glorious sight on a morning when the sun reflects brightly against the white stone and the surrounding seas.

6. Banganga Tank

Ruins

Banganga Tank, Malabar Hill
© Bernard Gagnon/WikiCommons
Banganga Tank was originally at the heart of a Brahmin village and temple complex. Records of the ruins of the original temple in the late 17th and 18th centuries tell us that the temple was dedicated to a Brahma trimurti statue. Later reports continue to describe the peaceful life of the Brahmin village enclave. Today the tank is surrounded by houses and bares little resemblance to the village it once was. However, there is still the newer temple that dates to the 18th century, and several historic wayside shrines. Walking through this historic area with its old and new structures allows the visitor to witness the many layers of history that connect together in Bombay’s spaces.

7. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (formerly, The Prince Of Wales Museum)

Museum

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
© Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
The Prince of Wales Museum, or the Chattrapati Shivaji Mahararaj Vastu Sangrahalaya as it is now called, was built to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mumbai in the early 20th century. It was built with an eclectic combination of elements from the Indo-Saracenic style. It incorporates a dome and finial reminiscent and intersecting vaults, with influences from the Taj, Golconda Fort and Gol Gumbaz. It also has a small jalis for light, tiled and inlaid flooring, a Maratha pavilion incorporated as an internal balcony taken from a wada, a real Martha home in Bijapur, and Jain temple pillars. The Museum is known for its collections of terracotta and bronze sculptures, excavations from historic Indian sites and other artifacts.

8. Ranwar Village

Ranwar Village

Ranwar is a heritage village with written records from the early 1700s, though the village may have existed before then. Like the rest of Bandra, the suburb in which it is located, Ranwar was populated by Catholics, and continues to have largely Christian residents. Now fortressed by nondescript concrete structures, it nevertheless remains a quiet restful place to catch a glimpse into the world of old Bombay. Bungalows with sunlit verandas and gabled roofs covered in red Mangalorean tiles can be found along winding Veronica Street. They are also distinct in the white grillwork of their balconies and external staircases, and short square curtains tied back in the windows. It is said that in the old days villages houses stood open, and today you might still find someone relaxing in a veranda and ready for a chat.
Ranwar, Bandra West, Mumbai, India

Bassein Fort © Gladson Machado/WikiCommonsBassein Fort © Gladson Machado/WikiCommons

9. Bassein Fort

Bassein Fort

Bassein Fort is located in Vasai, technically beyond the city, but it is only a few hours away and worth a day’s expedition. The Portuguese built it in the 16th century but fell to the Marathas in the 17th. The fort contained a large citadel, with several churches and water tanks, storehouses, an armory, and fields for vegetables. Several of the structures are still partially standing. Still visible are the remains of noble architecture, walls and decorative arches, stalwart columns and other decorative motifs. Many of the structures are now overgrown with vegetation, making it a pleasant place to wander through.
Bassein Fort, Mumbai, India
By Deborah Rosario

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article